OUR VIEW: Strengthen a robust process

A robust public consultation on the future of Sidney’s fire hall is a great idea

A robust public consultation on the future of Sidney’s fire hall is a great idea and one event residents should be watching for after the municipal election and into 2015.

As the idea has made its way through council, there has been plenty of opportunity to see the plans, hear debate on the need for the facility and have a say on the project outcome. The Town anticipates having even more public consultation on those plans — and that’s great news.

Judging by this week’s mayoral forum at the Mary Winspear Centre, some folks are concerned about its potential cost and the impact on local tax rates. Will a new community safety building, as it’s being called, make the grade? Time will tell and people will have the opportunity to weigh in if they choose.

Few have any right to complain about not being informed about these plans. Sure, it might slip by unnoticed if you’re not paying attention. As the Town has plans for more public input, however, the likelihood of that declines significantly.

We like the Town’s thoughts behind their robust public consultation process but feel there are a couple of occasions where any public involvement appeared to be trumped by the actions of council — specifically, the memorandums of understanding signed with proponents of projects on the waterfront and near the airport. Those MoUs, while certainly above board, makes it appear the Town has made a decision to further a specific project. Mayoral candidate Steve Price, a councillor for the last six years, said this week the MoUs allow developers to do their work while the Town does its due diligence. If that’s the case, why doesn’t the Town sign MoUs with all developers of property within municipal limits? And again, why does council sign MoUs in-camera if all they’re doing is starting their due diligence process? Even if a project is the best thing in the world for the community, why not tell people and have them buy-in right off the bat?

For a true public process, the perception that a decision has already been made should not exist.